It’s been over a month, so I suppose it’s high time to review the results of my latest career poll and engage in a little bit of token analysis!  As a reminder, the question I posted in September was:

“What is the most profound difference between the job market today and the way things were 20 years ago?”

The five response choices were:

1) The role the Internet now plays
2) The shortening of the average job tenure
3) The demand for hyper-specialized skills
4) Globalization & increased competition
5) Corporate emphasis on short-term profit

To date, 42 people have weighed in on this particular question, and while it’s tough to see what’s going in in the small graphic below, you can click here to cast your own vote or access the full set of results.

The Analysis? I was really curious to see the results of this particular survey, since without fail, the majority of “rookie” job seekers who come to see me — or attend my workshops — always express amazement at how different the process of finding work seems to be this time around versus the last time they were in the market.  And in many cases, we’re only talking 5 or 10 years ago, not the full 20 years postulated in the poll question!

My own opinion?  I’ve gotta go with the crowd on this one.  Not only do I think the tactical experience of applying for jobs via the Internet is dramatically different than the old days, when a Sunday paper and highlighter would usually get the job done in 20 minutes or so, but I think most of the other answer choices are influenced heavily by the rise of cyberspace, as well.  While the Internet can definitely be a wonderful tool, I’m convinced that the “unintended consequences” spawned by the web could occupy every sociology graduate on the planet for centuries to come.  The web is a big deal.  Bigger, I think, than most people even realize — at least in terms of the career frustrations people are facing.  And I personally believe almost all of the current complaints about the job market have a hefty dose of dot-com attached to them, underneath it all.

Option #2, shortened job tenure?  It’s a lot easier to hire and fire people when you can blast “help wanted” messages out to a nearly global audience for only a few dollars a pop.  Option #3, the growing demand for hyper-specialized skills?  With the increased speed of change and innovation propelled by the Internet, companies are facing shorter windows of opportunity in which to capitalize on markets — and therefore place a premium on finding “turnkey solutions” (aka workers with highly specialized skills) who can get the job done almost immediately, versus taking the time to groom their own homegrown talent.  Option #4, globalization and increased competition?  Again, I think it’s rather obvious that cyberspace is the catalyst for much of this phenomenon.  In the old days, shipping work back and forth to China or Borneo or Algeria was a pretty daunting task.  Now, T1 lines allow us to send terabytes of information around the world, in real time and essentially for free.  So love it or hate it, globalization was a foregone conclusion as soon as broadband “popped the bubble” and broke down the limiting factors/barriers of conventional mail.

As for Option #5, the increasing emphasis on short-term corporate profit?  I’m less certain about the role the Internet played in this particular development, which was ranked second in the poll, but my pet theory is that the speed, change, and competition propelled by the above three developments has contributed heavily to the sense that many company owners these days are circling the wagons — and protecting their own interests, first — due to fears about the future and lack of confidence in the long-term viability of their enterprises.

I’ll admit, these are just my own passing hypotheses on the nature of “change” in the job market, so as always, if any of you have any additional thoughts on this question, I’d love to hear them!  Please feel free to post a “comment” to this article if the mood should so strike you.  And for those who might want to chime in on my next question, I’ve just created a brand-new LinkedIn poll (click here to cast your vote) that asks the question: “If you had a so-so job offer in hand, but a much more promising interview coming up in a week, how would you handle it?”